Sat drinking a latte at The Old Market House on West Street Bristol, home of the Wardrobe Theatre, waiting for stop motion practitioner, model maker and Puppet Place Associate Artist George Northcott to join me, I think back to the first time we met when I joined the Puppet Place associate artist family. George was at that uncertain but exciting time in an artist’s career between leaving full time education and the reality of having to make a living from their art out in the real world. I’m struck by how much more confident and self assured he looks now as he joins me.
Hi George, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’d like to start if I may by asking about your background and how you came to be a stop motion artist?
Of course. During my studies for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art & Design at Truro college I’d stumbled across animator and film maker Jan Švankmajer whilst watching stop motion videos on YouTube. I really enjoyed his subtle blend of reality and imagination and soon became a big fan of his art. He and Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studios, who manages to create stunning backdrops for his characters, sparked my love of moving image and model making.
Those two artists were the biggest influences for my first major project (FMP), a stop motion animation called Endless Hunting, for which I was recognised for outstanding achievement in art and design at our final year exhibition at the Truro College Lemon Quay Exhibitions. I felt that stop motion gave me the best and widest use of both materials and processes and also allowed me to use the fullest range of skills I had been taught on my course. With these influences, and the success of the exhibition, I was pleased to be awarded a triple distinction. After college I applied to UWE to study illustration, with the intention of doing animation in my second year, but ended up doing illustration and animation because of the stronger focus on storytelling and narrative. It also allowed me to focus more on model making towards the end. Working primarily in a 3D manner creating a range of stop motion animations, puppets and models – my final exhibition enabled me to showcase all my creations in a mixture of animated shorts, puppet shows and concept posters and prints. I completed my course with a BA first class honours in Illustration.
At my final year exhibition at the Bower Ashton Campus I sold some prints to UWE which will be displayed at their new Frenchay building when it is complete in 2017. They also want to discuss using some models as part of the signage around the new building. In July, the exhibition went to the Hoxton Arches in Shoreditch, London where I sold my first 3D work, a piece called the ‘Brexit Bike’. This opened my eyes to the potential of puppets and models being artworks in their own right. I also had a very welcome opportunity to meet sculptor Wilfred Wood who shared both his knowledge and good advice with me.
You’re currently engaged on a three month operations and production internship at Puppet Place, how’s that working out for you?
It’s been amazing to be surrounded by so many professional creative artists who have so much ‘how to’ knowledge for me to tap into. Rachel, Emma and Luke have been very supportive throughout. They have allowed me time and space to work on my own skills and projects, as well as supporting me in my role to contribute to the smooth working environment Puppet Place provides. Working with the artists at Green Ginger, Rusty Squid, Pickled Image, together with any number of freelance and associate artists, has undoubtedly been the best next step for me on my journey to become a professional artist. I am very grateful to Puppet Place for giving me this opportunity to learn from and to network with so many talented and kindred spirits. I will certainly be looking for ways to maintain my close association with the team when my internship ends soon.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working as a freelance 3D illustrator on a number of projects including making a series of models for a new company called The Social Skills Agency who create classes in film, drama and music for children with Aspergers to help develop their social skills while learning about subjects they are interested in. I’ve recently finished some imagery for their website and I am exploring the potential for my involvement with them to develop into a collaborative production. This may give me an opportunity to be more involved in the delivery of these workshops. It is a very exciting project with lots of potential for the future.
I’ve also just finished making a life size model of a Yeti for Anorak Magazine for their 10th Anniversary Drawing Imaginarium at Dalston Square, Hackney in London this October. Cathy from Anorak Magazine approached me after she saw my creations and puppets at the UWE exhibition at Bower Ashton.
And the future, what are you hoping that will bring?
I’m especially keen to work collaboratively with the artists at Puppet Place, and with the Social Skills agency as we discussed earlier, to develop and create projects with a new, innovative approach to the use of puppets and stop motion. I’d also love to do a solo exhibition one day if I can to show case my fascination with both materials and processes.
If someone reading this interview wanted to follow your path to becoming a professional artist, what advice would you give them?
If something feels right, do it. Enjoy what you do, follow your own path and don’t be afraid to be unique. Make opportunities happen by networking and when they come, take your chances…
Interview by Stephen B. Watters
To find out more about George’s work and to browse his portfolio, visit his website at: http://www.georgenorthcott.com
Based in the heart of Bristol, Puppet Place offers workspace for artists and creatives including puppeteers, prop makers, graphic designers, animators and filmmakers. We also run an Associate Artist Scheme to support like-minded artists working in other locations. To join us or to find out how we can support you, contact Rachel McNally at rachel [at] puppetplace.org or call 0117 929 3593.